- 13 students in Rewari on hunger strike for five days
- Their school ends at Class 10, they want it expanded
- Government agrees, but does not offer timeline, fast continues
Rewari, Haryana: For five days, 15-year-old Sarla has not eaten or drunk a drop of water. Along with 12 of her classmates, she is on a hunger strike. Every morning, in 42-degree heat, the group of Class 9 and 10 students gather at their government school in Rewari in Haryana. Entreaties from parents and teachers to end the fast are ignored.
Then, this morning, came the news that the government has agreed that the school will add Class 11 and 12. Sarla and her friends will graduate from Class 10 in a few months. They say they cannot walk three kms to the nearest senior school because the route has been established as unsafe and unpatrolled.
“There are men along the way who threaten us, pass comments at us and tease us. For how long can we take this?” asked Sarla, a hunger striker.
The girls say they will not eat or drink water till they get a commitment in writing about the school being expanded. So far, the government has offered no timeline.
“What is the point of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao?” asked another student, Lilawati, referring to the campaign launched in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promote education for girls. “Is it all rhetoric? If the administration really means it, they must listen to our demands. We are the daughters of this country.”
On Friday, three of the girls were hospitalized, but they urged their comrades to keep the protest going.
Over the weekend, horrific cases of violence against women were reported in Haryana, among them, the gang-rape of a young woman in Rohtak, 83 kms from where the girls are holding their protest. Haryana is also among the states with the poorest sex ratio for women, though last year, it reported an improvement, clocking more than 900 girls for every 1,000 boys for the first time in over a decade.
“We have agreed to the demands that the young girls have. We sincerely believe in Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, and we will look into the cases of harassment that they report. We will upgrade their school till Class 12,” said Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma.